American Whitewater Weighs in on BLM Oil Shale and Tar Sands Plan
By: Nathan Fey
Some of our nation’s most well-known river trips are in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado – often right on top of areas with the potential for extractive energy development. Last week, American Whitewater partnered with our colleagues in the Outdoor Alliance representing the active outdoor recreation community to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) new, far-reaching oil shale and tar sands development plan for those three states.
With the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the BLM is considering the potential for oil shale and tar sands development on 2,431,000 acres of public land. Just some of the threatened paddling experiences include the multi-day desert floats on Desolation and Grays Canyons of the Green as well as the adventure available for kayaks and packrafts to explore the San Rafael, Muddy and Escalante.
While we support the prudent development of energy resources on public lands, there are great risks. Poorly planned extractive development threatens outdoor recreation and the local economies it supports, not to mention wildlife habitat, the quantity and quality of water available, and other resources that Western states rely on.
We believe more research must be done to ensure that extractive technology does not harm the irreplaceable resources that support stable, vital economies and communities.
One of the BLM’s alternatives, Alternative 3, outlines a cautious approach that requires adequate research, and leaves an appropriate amount of land available for this crucial step. We support this alternative. It correctly weighs the experimental nature of the technology against the internationally significant outdoor recreation areas that sustain local economies and promise long-term economic benefits.
Want to see what recreation areas could be affected? Click here to download and view in Google Earth.